The Stations of the Cross have been a very popular devotion of Catholics for many centuries. The path traversed by Jesus from Pilate’s door to Golgotha has been called the Via Dolorosa, the Way of Pain.
According to tradition, many places along this path have been marked as “stations.” Of course, not everyone could make the journey to Jerusalem and walk where Jesus walked. The practice then, of setting up stations within a church, was born.
The earliest precedents for actual “Stations of the Cross” are mentioned in writings as far back as 400 A.D.; however, their popularity did not become great until the 14th century, when the Franciscans took over custody of the shrines in the Holy Land. Although the number of stations has varied from eleven to thirty-seven over time, they were fixed at fourteen by the end of the seventeenth century
Surprisingly, there are no specific prayers authorized for this devotion. What is recommended, however, is a separate devotion or meditation at and of each station, not a general meditation or the whole Passion, or to any incident not included in the Stations.